Biloxi adopts FEMA flood elevations

Published 7:21 pm Thursday, March 1, 2007

The city of Biloxi has adopted requirements that will expand the designated flood zone and require buildings to be constructed according to the elevations recommended by FEMA.

The new requirements take effect June 1, but could be in place sooner if FEMA releases its updated flood maps before then. The city council voted 4-3 Tuesday to adopt FEMA’s advisory base flood elevations.

“People in the east end of town just don’t have that kind of money to build that high up,” said Councilman George Lawrence.

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Councilman Bill Stallworth said it was a “crying, low-down, dirty shame” people would not be able to rebuild their homes.

The new elevation height could be as much as 25 feet in some cases. However, it would vary according to the property’s grade level and proximity to the wave velocity zone from a storm surge.

Property owners who obtain building permits and start construction before the new elevations take effect can build according to the city’s existing requirement, which is 4 feet above the elevations in the 1983 FEMA flood maps.

Mayor A.J. Holloway said the city would not receive any public assistance if the council did not adopt the elevations and another hurricane strikes this year. He said the city needs to inform people they live in expanded flood zones so they will have enough time to obtain the appropriate insurance.

Homeowners who had flood insurance before Hurricane Katrina may be able to qualify for up to $30,000 to build higher because of the increased cost of compliance clause in their policies.

The policies will pay only to the city’s required building elevations. Currently, that is just 4 feet above the old flood maps. Many homeowners want to build higher, but the cost can be prohibitive. A defense attorney in the U.S. District Court trial of coast attorney Paul S. Minor and two former judges on Wednesday sought to refute government charges that a series of bank loans to the judges were disguised gifts to influence cases involving Minor’s clients.